Archive for Black Marriage

The “Marriage = Anti-Poverty” Campaign, It Goes Deeper than That

I don’t know about you but everywhere I turn there are these headlines, editorials, campaigns, etc. about beating poverty by encouraging marriage.  Again, I have nothing against marriage I think it’s one the most treasured and sacred bonds we as humans can establish.  This is the problem, people hear and/or see this and think, “hmmm! let’s get married so we’re not maintaining two separate residences”, with the mindset that they  can free up much more of their disposable income for other things.  This is not ideal, for several reasons:  1) marriages based solely on this premise ( the economics) usually end in divorce and can be some of the most contentious divorces and 2) freeing up disposable income does not mean that the parties will save more, invest more or budget wisely, which in turns does not change the economic state for the family.  On the other hand, parents who think about the future and well-being of their children, whether married or not, will typically take measures to ensure that they do that regardless.

The studies conducted by the Pew Research, the Heritage Foundation, the Brookings Institute, and several others, all emphasize some facts that many of us know- children are less likely to live in poverty when they are living in a household with both parents.  Single parent households make up more than 35% of families with children living in poverty, while married parents comprise under 10%. (According to data in Marriage: America’s Greatest Weapon Against Child Poverty, published in the Backgrounder, by the Heritage Foundation.)  The Institute of American Values, too, has released several articles where they report studies that indicate that children fare much better, economically, physiologically and intellectually when both parents are in the home.  However, any marriage, like those established for the sake of economics, does not suffice.  Absolutely not, being in the home where  the parents have a contentious marriage or high conflict marriage can have much more destructive effects overall.  Championing marriage should not be done in a vacuum, the focus should be on promoting strong, healthy marriages!  Divorce, too, can do just as much damage, having as much of a negative financial impact as living in a single parent home.  Black children are more likely than White children to go into poverty when their parents divorce, almost twice as much according to some sources. (http://social.jrank.org/pages/20/African-American-Children-Family-Structure.html)

Not to mention, the divorce rate in this country has soared since the 1960’s, particularly for Black couples with some believing it is as high as 50%.  The contributing factors that caused the huge increase in divorce range from the change in societal acceptance to the lax laws that most states have adopted.  However, the one factor that many, especially the “marriage as prevention to child poverty” protagonists, fail to mention is that one of the major causes of divorce  is the finance/economics circumstances of the family. (Read the “Married and Poor: Basic Characteristics of Economically Disadvantaged Couples in the US” by David Fein. http://www.mdrc.org/publications/393/workpaper.html) In other words, the economic positions the parties are in when they marry, causes them to experience more stress, which leads to divorce which results in children living in poverty.  A study conducted to assess the impact of one’s profession on divorce supports this, the result:  the most stressful jobs/occupations tend to have the highest divorce rates.  (Read the article here).  on the professions that many are in when they marry in the first place.

Furthermore, the answer to poverty is not necessarily more money or more resources, we should have all learned that by the recent debacle that landed us in this current economic state we are in.  The answer to ending poverty, especially within the household, is financial literacy, education and employability.  Improving the economic state before we marry seems to a surefire way to prevent divorce.  Budgeting, investing, saving, job training, education-all of these things are what keeps the family on the path to prosperity.  If we want our children to have an advantage, in every sense, it is not enough for us to to say “I do” we have to work collectively to avail ourselves of the knowledge and information on how to build and sustain wealth.

The Spotlight on Poverty has several articles on the topic, visit their website at http://www.spotlightonpoverty.org.

Thinking “Family” Can Have Dramatic Changes on Your Life

Many of us, as little girls particularly, fantasized about our weddings and the man that would be at the altar exchanging those vows with us.  Even up to now, when I tell my friends that I don’t plan on having a wedding or that I never dreamed of one they look at me in astonishment and retort “Why not”.   Well, for some odd reason I always thought more about my role as a nurturer and mother than I did the actual wedding and the fact that I would be someone’s wife.  I mean family always, well particularly as I get older, meant more to me than the titles I would be acquiring.  As a child I always thought of myself as the nurturer of my sisters and brothers ( although most of them are older than me), and that image and those ideals became more profound as I got older.  I seriously always had ideas in my head of what my mother should be doing to be a better nurturer, a better disciplinarian, a better example or  role model for my siblings so that the family legacy was carried throughout the generations to come ( I got in a lot of trouble too, because my mother did not take too kindly to me, a child, telling her how to be the matriarch).

Having convictions about the concept of  family goes far beyond the husband-wife dichotomy, and although I do believe that the bond between spouses plays an integral part of “family”, it is more a part of the whole.   Thinking family is more a state of being, spiritually, mentally and emotionally, while the union between man and woman is typically a situation, circumstance or for some, a status.  Think about it, a marriage can, and often times does, end in divorce with both parties severing all ties with each other upon the dissolution.  However, if the mindset of the parties was “family” from the onset, then first off, the chances of divorce diminishes and second, a civil or cordial rapport have a better chance to survive once the parties have parted ways.  And especially in cases where children are involved, having an amicable relationship is not an arduous task but an absolute MUST.

Not to mention, family, in the traditional or unconventional sense, can have much more longstanding and positive effects than marriage.  But if we take that family state of mind and imbue it when we enter the marital union, then only greater things are likely to happen.   Let’s look at marriage realistically, it is a decision between a man and woman to share their lives together, many of whom don’t or can’t fathom sharing the rest of their lives together. The most they share these days is just as much as they can bear until someone else comes along or something else more exciting entices them.  (This is briefly discussed in a recent NY Times article, where the percentage of Black marriages lasting more than years is far less than those of say, Hispanic marriages.  Read it http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/03/us/03marry.html)

Let me be clear, I am not endorsing foregoing marriage, not at all. On the contrary, I am emphasizing the fact that if we broaden our horizons and see the forest from the trees, that we may be more inclined to get married and to hang in there with our marriage instead of running for cover when turbulence hits.  When I am representing either party in a divorce, where the marriage was thirty years or more, after I inquire many of them explain to me (and it is evident by how the rest of the family actively participates in the divorce proceeding) that they stayed so long for the sake of their family.  At some point it was no longer about what he or she wanted for themselves, self interests fell to the wayside from a mutual perspective because they had that family mindset from day one.

It’s not difficult nor impossible, we just need to see beyond today.  We need to reach back to our parents, grandparents and beyond and try to incorporate those values they taught us into our way of thinking today.  From the moment we exchange that first  glance with a prospective, we should be thinking of how and if he or she can assume an active role of our family.

Is it a Cultural Thing, the Black Family That Is

A discussion came up recently about the cultural differences amongst Black Americans and Blacks from other parts of the world.  I was talking with a few of my girlfriends and we got on the topic of dating, love and relationships within the Black culture and how the perspective we have on each of these varies from region to region.  On the one hand, I could relate (because I think I dated a Black man from almost every part of the world) and noticed that there were some differences in my experience with each of them.  However, I thought about the fact that the destruction of the Black family is something that is ubiquitous, not just happening here in the United States or with Black Americans.

When the topic is raised be it by discussion, in the news, etc., many experts, philosophers, or anyone who has an opinion, state that the destruction of the American Black family is really based on our slave history and thus is a plight that non-American Blacks cannot necessarily relate to.  Not that I don’t agree with American slavery having a significant impact on the state of the Black family, or the Black community in general, but I don’t think that that is the sole basis for what we are experiencing.  Not to mention, Americans are not the only ones who went the horrific experience of slavery, being mentally and spiritually broken down for centuries by it.  Blacks in the Caribbean, Europe and South America (not to mention African countries where many slaves were captured from) were also traumatized by the brutality of slavery.  Ironically, though, Black families are not being annihilated in many of these other countries as they are here in the United States.  For instance, in South African although the number of out-of-wedlock births have increased, the nuclear family still remains intact on a large scale with the father being the patriarch.  (Read, http://family.jrank.org/pages/1613/South-Africa-Family-Life-in-Black-Communities.html)

I will say that economics, urbanization, employment, religion and education, all have a profound effect on the composite of the Black family since these influences vary amongst different Black cultures.  In Third World countries, for example, the Black family is more likely to remain intact in order to sustain, relying on each of its member to contribute financially to their existence.    So essentially, it may be circumstances in the varying regions that causes the incongruity among Black  as far as family is concerned.  Unfortunately, there is very little comprehensive data on the number of intact families amongst Blacks in other countries, particularly the countries that make up a substantial portion of that country’s population.  However, living in a diverse city like New York, one can certainly get a feel for their beliefs and ideals from merely interacting with other Black nationalities within the city.

Family dynamics and composition are inevitably impacted by heritage, but I don’t think that is the end all.  We all know someone who has migrated to this country and has become “Americanized” to the extent that they no longer acquiesce when their mate engage in behaviors that used to be culturally acceptable to them when they were in their country.   I guess depending on your stance on the topic, you can make the argument either way based on this observation alone.

It’s Time to Do Something!

I recently had dinner with a good friend of mine and the topic of Black people doing something about our current crisis, and yes it is a crisis, instead of and in lieu of constantly complaining about it came up.  We, well really me, went on this diatribe about how it is desperately needed, we heard enough already.  I read, hear and see Black folk constantly discussing what ails our community but they do nothing about it.  I mean read any blog, comments to articles, social network entries and they authors all do the same thing COMPLAIN incessantly!  Everyone has an opinion about how the Black race is falling behind educationally, has the highest unemployment/underemployment rate, is suffering tremendously from health related issues,  worth the least economically/financially and has recently changed the overall landscape of the “intact family”.   But that is all they do is opine, often times they get indignant, dogmatic, judgmental, etc. all in the name of just taking a position or merely being heard, but in the end it’s nothing that will actually affect change.

One particular situation gets my attention and exemplifies my point.  I was promoting Black Marriage Day (this past weekend) and have been reading other articles, blogs, etc. that were also celebrating and commending the theme of dedicating the fourth Sunday of every March to highlighting the Black marriage.  However, in the midst of my perusing other noteworthy news on the topic I was directed to an article written for a magazine, that actually criticized the day as being a day that “is a gloss-over of epic proportion” since it fails to talk about slavery and Black marriage, how it “disregards the economic impediment to Black marriage” and goes further on to state that it “ignores Black gay marriage”-all a bunch of nonsense.   The history of Black marriage is precisely what is imbedded in the national day of recognition.  There are seminars, workshops, etc. nationwide, that teach and enlighten married couples (and soon to be married couples) about what it takes to make marriage work, precisely because of the economic challenges (amongst the many others) Black couples face.  But this writer wanted to mimic what has been shoved down our throats for the past several decades, which does very little to move us past this point.  She failed to see the positive in Black Marriage Day, that it gives us a day where all of the propaganda associated with the unpopularity of Black marriages is put on the back burner, restoring our faith in the institution. Not to lambast her but I was incensed by the lack of pith in the article and it’s clear intent to spark some sort of controversy by the mere mention of these issues.

My point is this:  I challenge each of you to do something!  As the adage goes “if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem”!  If you have an opinion  about our problems, I say substantiate its impact by stating what you are doing about it.   We don’t need anyone else sitting along the sidelines, we need more of us getting in the trenches and actually doing something TODAY!

Black Marriage Day: A Celebration Of Black Marriages

I think this is awesome! a day to celebrate, acknowledge and highlight the Black married couples throughout the country.  This is a concept we need to spread like wild flowers, let everyone you know so they can tell somebody and so on and so on and so on…March 28th, 2010.  The founder of Wedded Bliss Foundation, Nisa I. Muhammad founded this day eight years ago to celebrate Black marriage within our community. (go to http://www.blackmarriageday.org and weddedblissinc.com)

The statistics indicate that marriage in the Black community is at an all time low, approximately 32%, less than half of what it was back in the 1970’s.  Furthermore, almost 70% of Black children born in single parent homes, most of them headed by single women.  To make matters even worse, younger couples within the Black community prefer to cohabit over marriage, also opting for having children out of wedlock.  Many believe that Black marriage is not the “trend” anymore speculating that it is more of a “White folks” thing.  These propagandists blame the media, rap music and lack of spirituality for this predicament.  Not that there is no validity to this, I believe that the media certainly plays a major role, but I also think many of us are to blame.  Black women blame Black men for their plight, Black men will not accept responsibility for what ails our community and so many of them run, and so the cycle goes on.

We need to talk long, hard and often about what the benefits of marriage are and why we should encourage our youngsters, our single, professional Black women, our Black men and unmarried parents to consider marriage as a viable option.  Although a  fairly recent Gallup poll, indicates that many Blacks between the ages 19-35, would like to get married and consider marriage to be a very significant part of life there are far too many who “shack up” instead with their “baby mama” or ‘baby daddy”.  So all hope is not gone, we can spread the word now and keep it going.  According the the Institute for American Values (www.americanvalues.org), some of the benefits of marriage include:

-increased financial and economic status, since both spouses are more likely to work as opposed to their White counterparts;

-Black men in particular seem to improve in health, physically and psychologically, when they marry;

-Black children tend to benefit more from marriage, even moreso than cohabitating parents, since married parents tend to take the health, education and psychological well-being of their children much seriously than non-married parents

-Black male offspring tend to be more confident, do better in school and have minimal behavioral issues leading to delinquency when they live within a home where their parents are married

-married Black couples are more likely to be supportive of each other, their children and their community

These benefits, plus many that we can see for ourselves we do not need a study to confirm for us, i.e. that it encourages Black men to remain productive members of society, that it serves as an example and encouragement for young Blacks to see marriage as a viable option and that it serves to minimize many of the negative stereotypes society has placed on us, can be used as selling points to all Blacks young and old as to why we should marriage should be the chosen path for long-term relationships.  I say long-term because we don’t want young people getting married just for the sake of having a party to show off the ring, dresses, etc.  Because just as the number of Black marriages decreased within the Black community, divorces within our community has increased to an astronomical degree.

We can all do something, we can tell everybody we know about the celebrations that are being held on March 28th all over the country to celebrate Black Marriage Day; we can get on board and promote, get active and support the initiatives being made by the African American Healthy Marriage Initiative (www.aahmi.org) as well the local efforts being made; most importantly we can support each other and appreciate what we can do to change our attitudes about each other.   I think once we start to listen to each other, respect our differences and move past them to actually do something about it we will inspire change.

“The Conversation”

     I recently read Hill Harper’s “The Conversation”.   Although I would have appreciated more of an in-depth analysis of the problems and more insightful solutions I really appreciated the overall premise.  I too think that many of our social, economic and spiritual ills can be addressed by talking openly and honestly to each other and thus encourage that approach to eradicating the prejudices, the negative stereotypes and the chasm that exists between Black men and Black women.  However, I believe that the best way to get someone to listen is to appeal to issues most sensitive to them and reading the book I did not quite understand who he was targeting, Black men, Black women or both.  I kept trying to read it from a Black man’s point of view, thinking that he was trying to reach them but could not help but internalize his points from a Black woman’s perspective.   Not to say that he could not be speaking to both, I was just hoping he was not jumping on that “let me speak to you desperate Black women, ready to pull out all stops to get your Black man” bandwagon!  I mean if you surf the web, turn on the television or strike up a conversation at the hair salon everyone is talking about the plight of single Black women.  I think it’s imperative, that Black men reach out to Black men.  Black women can harmoniously sing the “we need our Black men to step up and commit to us” song, but obviously they are hearing us. 

     Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Black women don’t have a responsibility in getting Black men to hear us and move in the direction of healing, restoring and reclaiming our families and relationships.  On the contrary, I think Black women should accept some of the blame in the discord that currently exists between us.  But I think our problems are, although part and parcel of the larger issues, are somewhat distinct and therefore should be dealt with differently.  The common denominator is our lack of trust, respect, appreciation and candor for each other, but our reasoning or rationale diverges.  So although we can confront our common issues, concomitantly, we don’t necessarily have to use the same strategy.  So I appreciate the Hill Harpers trying to reach the masses, but I believe in tailoring the solutions based on the interests of the target, not the “one size fits all” approach.  Hill was very insightful, he has a plethora of female friends and some good natured dudes in his circle who were all instrumental in his getting the message across, but I would have loved to if he had narrowed the focus. 

     Overall, it is clear that we need to start this conversation.  We need to be able to communicate openly and honestly about our respective insecurities, fears, doubts, etc. and begin to work toward healing.  I mean we desperately need to open our hearts, open our minds and talk TO each other and not AT each other.  I must admit, my head was spinning with all the platforms from which we can spring board  these conversations but we must take baby steps.

Hello Visitors!

Hello,

Welcome to Reclaim Black Family!  A discussion about the state of today’s Black family, Black marriage, parenting in the household of Black family and the Black community as a whole.  Our focus is to uplift, encourage, inspire, educate and share our views, beliefs, ideals, suggestions, comments and insight on all things that pertain to the Black family.  As a family law attorney, family mediator, social activist, writer, speaker and spiritualist I have had the opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge on the social, psychological and economical ills that plague our families.   Everyday and everyone I encounter presents additional opportunities to learn s0 I welcome all thoughts.